Mayor Andy Berke. (Photo: Staff)
Mayor Andy Berke announced Thursday 18 members of a new task force that will be charged with finding ways to reform the city's police and firefighter pension fund.
The group, which includes 10 active or retired police officers and firefighters, along with both Police Chief Bobby Dodd and Fire Chief Lamar Flint, will hold its first meeting Sept. 9. Other members of the group are leaders from the Chattanooga community, Berke said.
Travis McDonough, Berke's chief of staff, will chair the group. The mayor's announcement came three weeks after he indicated he would attempt to reform the fund, which is estimated to be $150 million underfunded.
"I created the task force to have meaningful, productive consensus on how the police and fire pension should be reformed," Berke said in a news release. "Ultimately, we must have a pension plan that does three things—attracts public safety employees and encourages them to have long careers with the city, meets our obligations to our officers and firefighters, and uses taxpayer dollars responsibly so we can fund public safety initiatives today."
Members of the board are Jim Appleberry, CFD (retired); David Brooks, CFD; Stephanie Crowe, CapitalMark Bank; Fred Decosimo, Decosimo & Co.; Police Chief Bobby Dodd; Kurt Faires, Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel; Tripp Farmer, HHM PLLC; Fire Chief Lamar Flint; Toby Hewitt, CPD, president of FOP; Terry Knowles, CFD, president of CFPPF; Less Lee, LeeSmith Inc.; Phillip McClain, CPD; Ken Neblette, CPD (retired); Chantelle Roberson, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; Jack Thompson, CFD, president of IAFF; Tim Tomisek, CPD, president of IPBO; and Ben Vance, Unum.
In the same news release, pension board President Terry Knowles said he looked forward to working with the group.
"It's my hope that this task force can work together in a collaborative effort and find a shared solution that addresses the city's concerns while protecting this important retirement benefit for firefighters, police officers and their families," Knowles said.
The task force's first meeting will be open to the public and streamed online. A location is to be determined.
Last month, Chattanooga City Council members approved a resolution authorizing the mayor to hire a consultant to help study the funds and make recommendations. The group, Public Financial Management, is a Philadelphia-based firm that has helped with other city pension funds.
Since his announcements, Berke has received some pushback from local police and firefighter unions on his methods for seeking change. According to a Chattanooga Times Free Press report, the mayor's office circulated a letter of support to union leaders and requested it be signed and returned promptly, a move that drew criticism.